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Biden: Fix that drafty roof

By Alec MacGillis
Just in time for the first New England snow, Vice President Biden today announced a new federal initiative to encourage Americans to weatherize their homes, thereby reducing heating bills and carbon emissions and helping to produce jobs.

Biden spoke about the program Monday morning at the Old Executive Office Building, where he was joined by several Cabinet secretaries who highlighted the billions the stimulus act already is directing toward energy efficiency projects, such as weatherizing low-income people's homes, federal buildings and public housing. There's just one difference: the new initiative doesn't actually involve any new spending.

Instead, the idea behind the Recovery Through Retrofit program is to make it easier -- and more appealing -- for homeowners who don't qualify for weatherization grants to spend their own money on better insulation. The government wants to create a national standard for the energy efficiency of houses, so that people buying a house would know how well insulated it is, just as they know the mileage of the cars they buy. That way homeowners investing in energy efficiency upgrades can be certain that their investment was worth it.

The initiative would also make it easier than it is today for buyers to roll the cost of an upgrade at the time of a home purchase into their mortgage on the house, or to spread the cost of the investment out by rolling it into their property tax payments. And it would provide incentives, using $390 million from the stimulus package, for whole blocks or neighborhoods to get energy efficiency upgrades at once, with bigger discounts for the neighborhoods that get the most residents to participate.

Biden and Cabinet secretaries Steven Chu (Energy), Hilda Solis (Labor) and Shaun Donovan (Housing and Urban Development) said the initiative would, if carried to its fullest, save homeowners up to 40 percent of their energy costs and reduce carbon emissions as much as would taking 30 million cars off the road, since home energy produces about a fifth of the nation's emissions. In the process, they said, it would produce jobs at energy auditing and weatherizing firms and their suppliers.

"This is what recovery is all about," Biden said. "It's putting the government in position where we're creating jobs. This is not going to create a million jobs overnight ... but this is a way we can begin to rebuild this economy."

Biden's comments came in advance of a planned trip to Warsaw to assuage concerns in Poland and the Czech Republic about the U.S.'s recent decision not to place new missile defense installations in those countries.

His mind may have already been on the plane, for he made a classic Bidenism in giving a big shout-out to two members of the audience, SEIU president Andy Stern and his second in command, Anna Burger. Biden called Burger "Carol Burger," only to correct himself a moment later with the excuse that he "went to school with Carol Burger." Closing his speech ten minutes later, he said he was going to Poland to "deal with another energy issue, national missile defense."

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 19, 2009; 1:27 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change , Energy  
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Comments

Biden owe us a detail report on how much of the stimulus money has been spent on weatherization of buildings. At the beginning of the new administration, the energy secretary has talked about one program to weatherize the federal buildings and another program to spend five billion dollars on weatherize the low income housings. Now the winter is coming, how many buildings have been weatherized ? how much money has been spent ? Is there any possibility that houses owned by the middle class citizens could benefit from the stimulus bill in getting their houses better insulated ?

Posted by: ypcchiu | October 19, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Joe Biden is right. The answers to most of our problems are for the most part easy, small, and incremental. We're lucky to have him as VP.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | October 19, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

If Obama was serious about saving energy he should have followed Steven Chu's advice and spent several billion of stimulus dollars on painting roofs white and replacing cheap drafty windows with energy efficient ones.

He should subsidize solar hot water systems for people's homes. This would make far more sense than cap and trade.

Posted by: alance | October 19, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

They are trying to pass cap & trade which will only make our electric bills go up & make others rich. Millions will loose their jobs if this bill passes & it will not offer enough jobs to make up for that job loss. The EPA using Al Gore to start up all kind of green projects has cost so much money that was not necessary & has help to almost bankrupt California because they brained washed so many people out their like Boxer, Waxman & Pelosi that thinks enviorment is more important then people. The global warming was not caused by people but by th Sun & Sun spots reported by NASA. Al Gore got away with his "chicken little" act & took so much money from us & then he has the audicity to turn around & borrow money from the taxpayers, billions of dollars to take to Finland to build 89,000 cars with our money paying their workers & nobody says anything about it. I'm ticked off about it & do not know the whole story but no one seems to care but me. The government needs to collect back our tarp money, stop spending, leave health care alone just get the abusers out of Medicare & take care of our parents & seniors some of who fought in WWII for our freedoms & constitution. Leave the 85% of us alone with our insurance companies that we like, let us shop over state lines, give our Military what they need to fight the terriost, get Holder to leave our CIA alone, we need them to protect us. Stop trying to come up with ways to make us pay more taxes. Just let the American people take back our country & get people back to work.Get these radicals, communists, socialists, Marxist, & the Chicago Mob out of our White House & give us our freedoms back.Anita Duncan whose favorite political philosephers are Mas Tse Tung & Mother Teresa, at least that is what you told a group of high school students in June 2009.

Posted by: egw7777 | October 19, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I think it is great that the Obama administration is paying attention to Green job expansion, not just job expansion. This paper (read it here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/Recovery_Through_Retrofit_Final_Report.pdf)
was written as a joint project of a whole long list of government offices. In other words, this is a major group effort, not just some random thing Biden is saying. Having Biden present it, is the Obama administration's way of showing us and the world that this is an important issue.

Posted by: NoJunk | October 19, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Do we really need Biden to tell us to fix leaks? Doesn't he have something better to do? Maybe he should start cleaning bathrooms in the whitehouse.

Posted by: MOMLEE | October 19, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

"The government wants to create a national standard for the energy efficiency of houses, so that people buying a house would know how well insulated it is, just as they know the mileage of the cars they buy."

Well only for *new* homes then. People have no idea of the mileage from older used cars. Sure they have the original new value, but rarely do cars get that, especially 20%+ into their useful lives.

Posted by: rpixley220 | October 19, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

The serial plagiarizer Biden should fix HIS hair-plugged roof, too.

Posted by: tjhall1 | October 19, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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